David Hockney's The Splash sells for £23.1 million at auction

11 February 2020, 21:38

The Splash sold at Sotheby's on Tuesday
The Splash sold at Sotheby's on Tuesday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

David Hockney's painting The Splash has sold for £23.1 million at auction – more than eight times as much as the last time it was sold in 2006.

The 1966 piece by the Bradford-born artist depicts the spray from a dive into a pool on a perfect blue California day.

It last sold at Sotheby's 14 years ago for £2.9 million, and returned to the same auction house on Tuesday evening as the star piece in its Contemporary Evening Art Auction.

It is the third highest price ever achieved for a Hockney at auction.

The piece is the second of Hockney's three "splash" paintings, in which he gave free rein to his lifelong fascination with the appearance of water.

Hockney, now 82, said of the works in 1976: "I love the idea, first of all, of painting like Leonardo, all his studies of water, swirling things.

"And I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds.

"Everyone knows a splash can't be frozen in time, so when you see it like that in a painting it's even more striking than in a photograph."

Emma Baker, head of Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale, said: "Not only is this a landmark work within David Hockney's oeuvre, it's an icon of Pop that defined an era and also gave a visual identity to LA.

"Even looking beyond the twentieth century, few artworks have attained as mythic a status as this painting.

"Equally as recognisable as Munch's series of screams, Monet's water lilies or Van Gogh's flowers, Hockney's splash is ingrained within our cultural imagination."